First to lay them out and make sure they'll fit in the my dining room, which will be given over to baby chicks for the next 8 weeks for our annual Chickam webcast starting March 29th if all goes well.
Then it was just a matter of cutting cardboard and using lots of hot glue and hardware cloth to whack together one giant brooder box!
Black plastic trash bags go under the box to help protect my floor. When the hatch begins, the webcam will be pointed at the chicks in the incubator, then be moved to the brooder box after the hatch is over and will broadcast the baby chick's antics 24/7 for the next 8 weeks.
The hardware cloth window is something I starting incorporating into my brooder boxes years ago--it helps keep the chicks from getting bored by allowing them to see out (they can watch TV from there!) and also makes for calmer, tamer birds who grow up used to the movement and noise humans make. I DID learn the hard way not to make the window quite at ground level--if I make it that low the chicks kick the shavings out and I get to spend 8 weeks constantly sweeping them up.
The flamingo lamp is a running joke with Chickam viewers--it used to be my desk lamp long ago (I have a weakness for tacky crap like that) until one day the ceramic flamingo head shade got broken and had to be glued. It was no good as a desk lamp anymore, but perfect as a baby chick heat source! People started calling the brooder box Club Flamingo, and the name stuck.
The food and water containers will go on top of the bricks on the right hand side of the box--the bricks serve to raise the food and water up out of the shavings, keeping them cleaner. And anything that makes for having to muck out the containers less, I'm all for!
We always start with a quail waterer base (the food and water bases screw onto a standard mason jar)--the quail base has a smaller trough so baby chicks cannot drown in their water--if I used a standard chicken waterer base I'd have to keep a handful of marbles in the water trough to keep the chicks from drowning during their first week or so of life. With the quail base, after about two weeks I just switch bases to the chicken waterer and it's all good.
Because we also have a family dog, Dusty, who comes into the house at night and in bad weather, the brooder box will also get a nice, sturdy top made of wire on a wooden frame--we also gate off the dining room while Dusty is inside with a big wire gate that she cannot jump over. You can't ask an animal not to follow their instincts, so we just eliminate any opportunities for tragedies.
I like to keep a broody hen in reserve just in case--last year having a broody saved our second hatch when our ReptiPro incubator broke during the final week of incubation. To encourage egg laying and broodiness, the other day I took some plastic Easter eggs and made some fake eggs to leave in the nest boxes.
I just picked out four of the most obnoxiously colored ones, filled them with rice for weight and glued them shut. We'll leave these in place and hopefully a hen or two will go over to The Dark Side and go broody. We use fake eggs rather than real ones so that we don't end up with a partially developed, dead chick if a hen abandons her nest partway through.
Since we're having a staggered hatch and will be hatching a second group of chicks one week after the first hatch, we'll partition off a section of the brooder box for the first week or so after the second group hatches--once they are strong, we'll remove the partition and all of the little stinkers can run together.
So today marks the final Chickam webcast of the adult flock outside for a while--next Saturday should be the hatch! While the chicks should hatch starting around 7AM on the 29th, Mother Nature has her own schedule and sometimes brings the chicks a bit early or late. I'd suggest checking the Chickam UStream channel, here http://www.ustream.tv/channel/chickam2008 every few hours starting on Thursday--if you tune in and we are live and the picture is showing eggs, that means the hatch has begun!